A new wave of forest clearance is now spreading across eastern Amazonia, driven partly by the European preference for non-GM soya. Siberian forests, meanwhile, are being released from Russian state control into private ownership, raising the prospect of unregulated clear-felling for timber. Forests in the American west, Australia and Mediterranean Europe have burned extensively in summer fires, leaving smoke and ashes, damage and distress. In parts of Indonesia, poorly enforced logging legislation, drought induced by abnormal climatic fluctuations and uncontrolled burning have reduced once continuous forests to patches too small to sustain either wildlife or the indigenous human population. Recent reports suggest that Burmese forests, one of the last repositories of wild teak, are being felled at a faster rate than any others in South-East Asia. Forest-loss has knock-on effects too, particularly the loss of topsoil and the flooding and silting of river-beds, deltas and estuaries (the last often hundreds of miles from the deforested land). Gonaives, in Haiti, where more than a thousand people died in the floods following Hurricane Jeanne, was inundated because every tree in the surrounding territories had long since been felled for charcoal.
LRB 23 June 2005 | PDF Download